Alt lang syne 

For sprawling, family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebrations, it really is hard to beat Opening Night downtown, but many of-age revelers opt out of the massive event and instead head to less congested commercial districts across the city offering a relaxed environment to ring in 2011.

The gay district is a long-standing hotspot for festive drinking, and Brett Young, co-owner of The Boom, 2218 N.W. 39th, said New Year’s Eve is one of the two biggest nights of the year for his entertainment venue. Not settling for just free Champagne and a paper hat, The Boom will be staging an avant-garde, Cirque du Soleil-styled female impersonator show in the performance space that will be paired with a specially prepared dinner that includes a Champagne fountain at the end of the night, all for $35.

The Boom is celebrating its second New Year’s bash after moving into the gay district, and Young anticipates selling out all 150 packages this year. Tickets for just the performance will be $20, and the front bar will be open to the public all night long for customers barhopping across the district.

Young added that The Boom isn’t just a gay bar, but rather an entertainment space where straight customers often make up a significant part of the crowd.

“We do a Sunday brunch show at noon and at 1:30, and I’d say 50 percent of our crowd is straight, and the same goes for a lot of our shows at night,” Young said. “When ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ was performed here, about 70 percent of the crowd was straight, and we’ll be bringing that show back in January.”

For those planning on traveling by taxi so they don’t have to monitor their alcohol intake as closely, Classen Circle is a handy hotspot since there are several bars within walking distance, including The Hi-Lo Club, The Drunken Fry, 51st Street Speakeasy and one of the best neighborhood bars in the metro, Edna’s Restaurant & Club.

Edna’s, 5137 Classen Circle, has been making a few changes here and there to gussy up the place, such as an outside patio. But the heart of the bar is still as accessible as ever. Bartender Star Whitson said the vibe has stayed the same, although the establishment’s reputation has begun bringing in a more diverse clientele, with some customers driving in from towns as far removed as Hydro.

“Lately, at night we’ve been getting an older clientele,”
Whitson said. “Usually, we are packed with college kids and customers in
their 20s and early 30s. Here lately, a lot of those customers have
begun bringing their parents and their grandparents, so when they see
what a cool place the area is, they bring their friends. We are
wondering if that is how it’s going to be, getting older clientele at
night.”

If you are going to celebrate New Year’s like you know you’re going to, don’t drive.

—Star Whitson

Not
much will change on New Year’s Eve for Edna’s, according to Whitson,
but she does anticipate a surge in customers walking from one bar to the
next. She highly recommends catching a ride to Classen Circle if at all
possible.

“My best
bit of advice is to get together with some friends and get a party bus
or take a cab, but don’t drive,” she said. “If you are going to go out
and celebrate New Year’s like you know you’re going to, then don’t
drive. With the way they’ve changed the roads, it can get pretty
confusing getting to our parking lot, so if you are out being an amateur
alcoholic, then you can get turned around and it could get messy.”

The
Plaza Court might be a better option for revelers looking for a more
subdued atmosphere, and McNellie’s bar manager Jake Hickman said that he
anticipates a crowd looking to escape more raucous bars and venues.

“We
don’t do a lot of big toasts or anything crazy,” Hickman said. “Our
crowd is very beer-educated; everyone is interested in the beer scene.
We also get a lot of scotch drinkers, so it is an older and more mature
crowd. I can’t tell you the last time there was a fight in our bar.”

The
kitchen will be serving appetizers and other bar food up until 1 a.m.
to treat anyone with the late-night munchies, but other than being a
little busier than normal, Hickman doesn’t see New Year’s Eve being much
different than any other Friday night.

“It
will be more mellow and low-key; the bar will be busier than normal,
but it won’t be loud and obnoxious with screaming 21-yearolds,” Hickman
said. “Even the younger crowd that comes in wants to drink good beer and
is looking for good hospitality.”

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